I used to think marriage was forever. I know people get divorced. The rate’s at like 50 percent now but, same as most people who take the plunge, I thought I’d be married longer than 28 months. Just sayin’.
You might think it’s a given to get any dealbreakers ironed out before that all-important wedding day, but rom-coms had me believing that marriage is something to be worked at.
And it is. I assumed that getting married meant you chose a person, and committed to building a life with them. That nothing’s perfect, and any problems you had as a couple could be worked on during your life together. And for some people I’m sure that’s the case. But maybe, just maybe, not every problem can be fixed.
I didn’t bank on these "unsolvable" problems. Not being a quitter, I figured there were fixers for anything, Olivia Pope style. But after therapy and counseling and self-help books and copious amounts of gin, I know now that sex is sometimes a problem that can’t be solved.
My marriage was sexless. Which is not to say that we never had sex. According to the Internet (that super-trustworthy Bible), a marriage is considered to be sexless if the couple has sex 10 times or fewer per year.
Before we got married, we had sex a bunch. Maybe not as frequently as I’d have liked, but our relationship was good in so many other ways, I didn’t think sex was a dealbreaker. When we did have sex, it was mostly good, and surely once you’re married to someone, you’ve got more time to prioritize, right? Wrong.
The best description I’ve heard of marriage is this: It’s like turning the volume up on your relationship. All the good things become extra great, magical, amazing. And all the bad things get just as loud, are magnified because you’re trapped.
This is because there’s no running away when you’re married, no easy escape or break-taking. Marriage is for the long haul. For good or bad or in-between.
I knew I was in trouble when I heard this description of marriage, agreed with it, and said, “Yeah, and sometimes all you can hear are the bad things. They start to eclipse all the good things.”
It made me miserable that felt this way about my marriage, but after almost two years, there were so many glaringly obvious issues, I didn’t know where to start. The fact that we were in a sexless marriage was one of the issues, or a symptom of underlying issues, or simply an incompatibility we hadn’t wanted to see before.
My husband didn’t see this as a problem. He hated the term "sexless marriage" and said I should stop Googling. He said he was committed to working on our sex life, but after therapy and heated discussions, he told me I was pressuring him into sex and he didn’t know if he wanted to have it at all anymore.
And I didn’t even disagree: It’s not fun propositioning someone for sex and being turned down almost every time. It’s also not fun investing your energy in something which your other half clearly has no intention of working on.
And as a pretty laid-back person, it was horrific being accused of putting pressure on someone. In my opinion, I’d only been asking and trying to encourage him, so when he told me he felt like I was forcing him, sex died for me altogether.
I couldn’t win, and I no longer wanted to have it. Having it or not having it: I felt like shit about myself either way.
Looking back, I think that our sex drives were just very different, and there was seemingly no middle ground. He didn’t want to commit to having sex once a week (which by a lot of people’s standards isn’t even that much), and I didn’t want to live out a sexless life. I was 30. I felt closed for business. And that was super depressing.
Obviously, it’s incredibly important to respect a person’s wishes when it comes to sex. If someone doesn’t have a sex drive, and decides they don’t want to have sex at all, that is totally fine.
The problem is, when you’re married to a person who does want to have sex, and preferably lots of it, this difference of opinion can be heartbreaking. I’m sure some couples make this situation work, and sex was not our only problem. But it was the tipping point.
I was having some major health issues when my sex life blew up. And the person who ended up being there for me was an ex. I don’t feel great about this fact, but he was there when no one else was. He never judged me and always supported me.
I didn’t spill all the gory details of my sex life to him — that would’ve been un-classy and inappropriate — but it was amazing to have the support of another person, someone who made me laugh and reminded me that life would be OK again, eventually.
I never meant to sleep with my ex, but when someone knows everything about you, and still likes you, and can stand every bit of the mess that you are, that’s kind of sexy. And the sex with my ex was, and is, incredible.
Was I still married at the time? Yes, but it’s complicated. At one point, my husband told me to sleep with other men because he didn’t want to have sex with me, only to take the statement back a month later. There’s no simple timeline for when we went from "having problems" to "irreconcilable differences."
I'm not saying any of this makes it OK. But after months and months of misery, of feeling responsible for problems I couldn’t fix, and for feeling like the blame mostly sat with me (If I’d waxed more, would that have made a difference? Were my pajamas really so unattractive that no man would want to sleep with me?), I had sex with someone else.
My body couldn’t resist, and I felt like I was finally doing something for me. And it’s hard to regret it when it felt so good.
Now, I’d never judge a person having an affair or experiencing marital troubles.
Being with someone who doesn't want to have sex with you destroys your self-esteem and makes you feel like everything is your fault. If you could just be a better person, a less annoying person, an aesthetically more pleasing person, maybe you’d be having sex.
Those friends who shamed me into staying and told me I was a bad person for doing what I did, didn’t know the half of it. The people I still call friends now understood how miserable I was, how hard I tried, and how heartbroken I was to finally give up.
Marriage isn’t what I thought it was. What you most need in a partner is someone willing to discuss any issues you might have and try to work them out without assigning blame.
The ex who supported me is no longer my ex but my current boyfriend. And he loves sex. I know there’s more to life than sex, but for me right now, it's still awfully important.